Late Adolescence: An Increasingly Common Phenomenon

February 14, 2019
Read all about the phemonenon of late adolescence in this article!

Age is becoming less and less important in today’s world. We’ve discovered that life doesn’t necessarily conform to the theoretical frameworks we’ve designed. The phenomenon of late adolescence proves it.

First of all, we have to mention that adolescence is that life stage that serves as a bridge between childhood and adulthood. It’s characterized by emotional instability and an intense search for one’s identity. Many of the highs and lows during this stage depend on the multiple physical changes that arise. Sexual maturation arrives and, with it, particularly dynamic hormonal activity.

“Adolescence is society’s permission slip for combining physical maturity with psychological irresponsibility.”

-Terri Apter-

Late adolescence has two meanings. First of all, it represents the final years of adolescence. It’s when all the changes have taken place and the young person is ready to properly enter adulthood. Second of all, it’s related to those life stages where adolescent traits resurge. The first is a technical term, while the second is a popular psychology construct.

Late adolescence as a technical concept

Developmental psychologists divide adolescence into three stages. Early adolescence ranges from ages 11 to 13 and corresponds to puberty. Then, there’s middle adolescence, which ranges from ages 13 to 16 or 17. Finally, there’s late adolescence, which ranges from ages 15 or 17 to 21.

A boy with late adolescence.

Late adolescence is a stage characterized by greater stability than the others. At this stage, the teen is pretty much sure of who they are. They start getting excited about the future. Sometimes, some crises manifest due to the new adult responsibilities that they must assume and don’t feel ready for.

Unlike the previous stages, in late adolescence, it’s not so important to be part of a somewhat stable group. In this stage, teens give greater importance to personal relationships. Furthermore, they tend to have fewer problems with their family members. Likewise, teens tend to prioritize great projects and the desire to change the world.

The ‘outdated’ adolescent

Nowadays, psychologists have started to classify emotional states characterized by adolescent traits into late adolescence, even though the person is already an adult. This type of late adolescence is when human beings don’t complete the stages at the rate that the theoretical frameworks indicate. In other words, there are circumstances that prolong adolescence or cause infantile or adolescent aspects to reappear, even at advanced ages.

This late adolescence manifests itself in many ways. The most typical is when a person remains ‘an eternal rebel’ full of dreams without any concrete goals to achieve. Likewise, people in late adolescence are also reticent to adapt to adulthood.

A group of friends on their electronic devices.

Usually, late adolescents still have many problems with their parents. They blame and reproach their parents but, at the same time, it’s impossible for them to separate themselves from them emotionally. Sometimes, they may also be reticent to move to their own place.

Myths about growth

Many times, the teen’s parents are the first to hinder their independence. Beyond emotional attachment, what may be promoting this behavior is their own fear of growing old or taking charge of their life. Therefore, the parents themselves may be responsible for prolonging economic, emotional, and psychological dependence.

In general, modern society has created the myth that youth is the only stage worth living. There’s a reason why about half of cosmetics products are designed to ‘delay aging’. Many people don’t like the word ‘adult’ because it sounds serious and dull. To them, it’s synonymous with responsibility, which for many is the opposite of youth.

All those things aren’t negative. However, what may be counterproductive is giving up autonomy and responsibility, which implies keeping an adolescent attitude. Also, late adolescents never figure out what they’re capable of.

Teenagers in the beach.

People only discover that when they decide to take responsibility for themselves and overcome their fear of doing it. If you just keep on resisting, it’s likely that a certain unconformity will take hold of you. And it’ll become chronic, without you even being aware of it. Consequently, this may lead you to deprive yourself of great experiences.